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Trailblazing African Women in Business

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Women Who Lead: Unveiling Business Insights from Trailblazing African Women.


Despite a tiny nudge in the global gender gap score by 0.3 percent, the World Economic Forum's recent report reveals that gender disparity is still a reality. The numbers show that more women are re-entering the workforce, but they are still outnumbered by men in leadership roles. 

Across Africa, and in many countries worldwide, women continue to face hurdles such as discrimination, lower pay, and fewer opportunities for advancement. Despite these challenges, our African trailblazers are breaking through the glass ceiling and making their mark. 

Here, we've gathered some of the most inspiring African women entrepreneurs. Their wisdom, advice, and experiences have been distilled into mantras that can guide you on your path to success, no matter what obstacles you encounter.

 

1. Be the change you wish to see in the world

"My business started when my three year old came home from school one day, and said she wanted long blonde hair like cinderella. I was really disturbed because as a proud African woman, I wondered if other African children felt like my daughter. It was then that I realized that I had to try to become that role model. I started showcasing my culture and teaching people about my culture on social media. There was a day I filmed about Sheabutter, and it went viral. That is how it started. When I finally opened up to the ecommerce market, hamamat.com we sold out in three days. I believe it's the future." - Hamamat Monita

The change Hamamat wanted to see in the world for young African children was what inspired her to actively showcase her culture that then led to creating the unique shea butter brand that has gone on to be a global success, shipping to different continents of the world.

2. Be authentic: Turn your story into a viable product

"When I began collecting dolls, I realized there was a lack of diversity in the market. I decided to fill this gap by creating dolls that represent people of color, and people with albinism. I took it upon myself to use my personal experiences to create these dolls. I designed dolls based on my personal experience and based on what I knew many people like me were going through. I wanted to create dolls that would make children feel seen and represented, and I believe I have achieved that with Malaville Toys." - Mala Bryan, South African founder of Malaville Toys

Mala Bryan's journey is a testament to the power of authenticity and personal experiences. She turned her story into a product that fills a market gap, creating dolls that represent the diversity she saw lacking in the market. Her dolls not only provide representation for children of color and those with albinism but also serve as a tool to educate others about these diverse groups.

3. Follow your passion 

Nancy Munderu, founder of Travel Shore Africa – a successful Kenyan travel agency – has followed the path of her passion to ease the travel needs of many Kenyans.  

When asked what inspired her to start her company she said, "I always had a passion for travel and arranging travel, plus I had a passion for business, growing up in a family of entrepreneurs. Making travel arrangements as a business was my driving force." - Nancy Munderu

Like Nancy, you want to identify and stick to the core thing that drives you to do great work and provide quality solutions for your customers. Your passion is key to starting and sustaining tenacity in your journey to building a successful business.

Now, Nancy didn’t just follow her passion blindly. In following her passion, she gave herself to learning how to run a travel business. “I had a dream of starting my own agency but I had no knowledge on how to run one or how they made money. In 2011, I decided to resign from my airline job and get a job with a travel agency to learn.” - Nancy Munderu, Founder of Travel Shore Africa

Nancy's story is a powerful example of how following your passion can lead to success. She turned her love for travel and arranging trips into a business, despite the challenges she faced. Her journey involved stepping out of her comfort zone and learning how to run a travel agency, which eventually led to the establishment of her own company. Nancy's journey stands as a powerful example of how passion and determination can help overcome hurdles and pave the way to success.

4. Combine your passion with problem-solving

Vivian Ozoemena runs LaBelle Sporties in Nigeria, and her passion for sports has led her to make a unique product that solves an interesting problem.

When asked what inspired her to start LaBelle Sporties, she said, "My love for sports gave me this inspiration. I wanted to bring a touch of excitement to the sports apparel industry and this idea was well-received, and it has taken me far in the sports apparel industry." - Vivian Ozoemena, founder of LaBelle Sporties

Vivian Ozoemena's journey is a captivating tale of how passion, when intertwined with problem-solving, can lead to success. She took her love for sports and fashion and turned it into a unique product that not only fills a market gap but also adds a spark of excitement to the sports apparel industry. Vivian's story serves as a universal example of how combining passion with innovation can result in extraordinary success.

5. Learn from your mistakes and build resilience

Nneile Nkholise emphasizes the need to reframe failure as a learning experience. 

“I believe that we have made failure seem like the worst experience so much so that many young women are afraid of being involved in tech because of the realities of failure. Be patient with the journey of entrepreneurship; it takes time to achieve your set goals. If reality doesn't meet your expectations, stay grounded in your passion and goals. Turn your ideas into great products and services." - Nneile Nkholise, Founder of THOLA

Nneile Nkholise's words of wisdom remind us that failure is not the end but a learning experience. She emphasizes the importance of patience and resilience in the entrepreneurial journey. Indeed her advice is a reminder that turning ideas into great products and services requires learning from mistakes and building resilience.

6. Have a growth mindset.

Dineo Lioma, a co-founder of three biotechnology companies in South Africa, has made significant strides in the commercial sphere of science and its advancement. When asked about her perspective on cultivating a growth mindset, she shared her insights.

"Your potential, your abilities, including your intellectual ability is not fixed...there is always an opportunity to improve yourself. You just have to change your mindset, and how you view progress. Be willing to try new things and challenge yourself...

How you develop resilience is by putting yourself out there, and going into opportunities where you will fail, and realizing that failure is not that bad. You will not die. So, if you are too afraid, and you have this fixed mindset, and you've got this "everything must be perfect", it will be very difficult to try out new things, so that you can grow and progress as a person, and have that growth mindset." - Dineo Lioma, Founder and CEO at Deep Medical Therapeutics.

In essence, Dineo highlights the significance of a growth mindset in fostering resilience and enabling continuous improvement and growth, both personally and professionally.

When the journey of entrepreneurship feels daunting, remember the stories of trailblazing women like Dineo Lioma. Their journeys of overcoming challenges and achieving success serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all women in business.